After Games End, Will Folks Stay Downtown in Atlanta?
With the start of the Olympics less than three weeks away, attention in Atlanta already is turning to what the city will look like and how it will use the stadiums, arenas and other new amenities after the games end.
One point of focus is Centennial Olympic Park, a 21-acre green belt that officials hope will help pull people back to living downtown in a revitalized area filled with shops and small businesses.
Using a $1.5 million grant from the Whitehead Foundation, Central Atlanta Progress, a downtown development group, has created Centennial Olympic Park Inc., which is working on a plan that should take 10-15 years to complete.
``We’re using it as a catalyst for redevelopment,″ said Paul Kelman, vice president of Central Atlanta Progress. ``It will be a full-scale program to make something happen.″
Kelman sees a four-part plan, including housing, retail and entertainment outlets, an entrance on the park for the mammoth Georgia World Congress Center convention complex and a business park that may focus on sports enterprises.
``We would envision at least part of that park in a federal empowerment zone,″ Kelman said, referring to U.S. government programs aimed at stimulating economic growth in poor urban areas. ``That could mean thousands of dollars and jobs for the inner city.″
Downtown Atlanta is many things, but one thing it’s not is a great place to call home. There’s virtually no place to shop for food and most of the stores and restaurants that are there close up once office workers leave for the suburbs.
``We’ve got to build this housing base and the retailers will come back,″ Kelman said. ``We think there’s some real opportunities for synergy, to bring it all together.″
GOVERNOR BILLY?: Speaking of post-Olympic life, one common item of speculation is what’s next for Billy Payne, the gung-ho leader of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. More and more, the whispers focus on politics.
Reports this week in a political newsletter, ``Bill Shipp’s Georgia,″ said Payne, a real-estate lawyer by trade, has been mentioned as a candidate to succeed Gov. Zell Miller, whose term expires in 1998 and is forbidden by Georgia law from running for re-election.
Payne has said he would like to write his memoirs about bringing the Olympics to Atlanta, but otherwise has stayed mum about his plans.
D-DAY FOR UNIVERSIADE: Officials will decide next month whether the 1997 World University Games are held as scheduled in Sicily.
The steering committee of FISU, which runs the games, is set to meet in Brussels and ``will definitely determine the position″ on keeping the event on the Italian island.
``During the leadup to this meeting, contacts have been established with other cities who have announced that they are ready to host the Universiade 1997 if the games are canceled in Sicily,″ a federation newsletter said.
The University Games, held every two years, are limited to higher-education students. They are considered the largest multi-sports event in the world outside of the Olympics.
PIN HUNTERS ON THE CASE: Searching for the hot pin at this summer’s games? You might start with the blue blob.
Pins featuring the original ``Whatizit″ mascot of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games should be the most avidly sought trinket when pinheads converge next month, according to Bill Nelson, a leading observer of Olympic pin trading.
``We’re seeing it already,″ said Nelson, a former University of Arizona marketing professor. ``There were only two pins, really, and they both are especially rare because the character was scrapped so quickly.″
The two versions were made by different companies, with the only difference being a small airspace between the legs of one Whatizit. The other version has solid metal in that area, Nelson said.
Whatizit, looking like a cross between a blue raisin and a swollen tick, was unveiled during the closing ceremonies of the Barcelona Games in 1992. It was immediately criticized, changed a bit and eventually swapped out for a leaner, cleaner version dubbed Izzy.
``The first Izzy was actually the second Whatizit,″ said Nelson, who publishes a monthly newsletter from Tucson, Ariz. ``The latest Izzy you can tell, because he has a pug nose.″
(Nelson’s newsletter is available free by calling 1-800-368-8434.)
SPRINTS: American swimmers have come out clean in drug tests this year. U.S. Swimming said 192 doping tests were conducted on its athletes through May, with no positive results. Seventy-two of the tests were out-of-competition samples. ... Final accreditation of the Olympic drug lab in Atlanta is a big step closer. A member of the IOC’s medical commission visited the lab last week and delivered test samples. ... Doctors from England and the United States have been awarded the first Olympic Prize in Sports Medicine by the International Olympic Committee. Drs. Jeremy N. Morris of the University of London and Ralph S. Paffenbarger of Stanford were honored for pioneering studies on the link between physical activity and heart disease. The prize, with a $250,000 cash award, is endowed by Parke-Davis.
COMING THIS WEEK:
_ Monday, U.S. Olympic baseball team vs. Cuba, Chattanooga, Tenn.
_ Monday through Friday, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team training camp, Chicago.
_ Tuesday, U.S. Olympic baseball team vs. Cuba, Knoxville, Tenn.
_ Thursday, U.S. Olympic baseball team vs. Cuba, Norfolk, Va.
_ Thursday, U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team vs. Australia, Tampa, Fla.
_ Friday, U.S. Olympic baseball team vs. South Korea, Trenton, N.J.
_ Saturday, Olympic Athletes’ Village opens.
End advance for June 29-30